Financial challenges, uncertainties factored into Sudbury's public health budget

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts, presented the organization's 2020 budget to city council. Sudbury provides some cost sharing with the province for public health.

Near zero budget increase in 2020 for Public Health Sudbury & Districts

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Public Health Sudbury & Districts' Medical Officer of Health, presented the agency's 2020 board-approved budget to city council Nov. 26. (Twitter/SudburyPolice)

The board for Public Health Sudbury and Districts had to take a number of challenging and uncertain factors into account when creating its 2020 budget.

That financial plan was presented to Sudbury city council this week, because a portion of public health is cost-shared between municipalities and the province.
"It really is a near zero budget that maintains important public health programs and services for our community," said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe is the Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury and Districts. (Submitted by Public Health Sudbury and District)

She mentioned that important public health programs and services remain in tact, however the board did come up against financial challenges and uncertainties when calculating the budget.

Sutcliffe told city council there is change coming in January in how the province determines its funding formula, explaining there will be a decrease of 6.4 per cent  in provincial funding or $1.17 million.

She added that the budget also includes a $734,000 municipal increase or an increase of $4.47 per person per year for public health. 

There is uncertainty about the future structure and organization of public health in Ontario. The provincial government is conducting community consultations.

In its April 2019 budget, the provincial government had proposed consolidating Ontario's 35 health units into ten.

"This is something for which we can't plan, but which we are very much engaged in, in terms of engaging in the consultation and have been engaged in trying to think about what's best for our area and what's best for the northeast," Sutcliffe said. 

She added that the provincial government had pressed the reset button on this, and would be engaging in consultations to understand recommendations from municipalities, from boards of health, and from other key stakeholders about what should happen with the structure of public health.

In her presentation to Sudbury city council, Sutcliffe made the assumption that the requirements of public health won't change and that Public Health Sudbury & Districts will continue as a separate entity throughout 2020.

"We wanted to be as explicit as possible about those assumptions given the uncertainties so that things could be course corrected if need be and the assumptions needed to be changed over time," she said. 

Sutcliffe also warned that if there wasn't an injection of more provincial funding into public health, there would be financial shortfalls for them in the years ahead.

With files from Angela Gemmill


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